By Vickie McDonough
|Rose Hill School in Oklahoma built in early 1900's|
The one-room schoolhouse is as iconic a part of American history as the cowboy. Although there are still a few one-room schoolhouses left in America, mainly in small western communities and among the Amish, they are quickly becoming a thing of the past in preference to today’s larger modern schools with all manners of technology and conveniences. But 125 years ago, things were vastly different.
Most small towns could only afford a one-room school building made from stone, wood, and sometimes, even sod. We often tend to think of these schoolhouses as being red, but in truth, most were white. Some had the luxury of a school bell, but many didn’t. Children generally wrote on slates, while the teacher used chalk to write on boards that had been painted black, hence the term “blackboard.”
|Pot belly stove|
Teachers in one-room schools were often former students of the same school they taught in. During the winter months they would get to school early to get a fire started in a pot belly stove, so the building would be warm for the students’ arrival. Sometimes they would even prepare a hot, noon meal on top of the stove, usually soup or some kind of stew.
A normal school day was 9 to 4, with 15-minute recesses in the morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch. They generally ran through eight grade, and teachers taught subjects such as grammar, ciphering (mathematics), penmanship, spelling, history, and geography. Older students had the responsibility of bringing in water and fetching coal or wood for the stove. According to their size and gender, younger students would be given responsibilities such as sweeping, cleaning the blackboard, or taking the erasers outside for dusting.
Male teachers sometimes lived in a teacherage, which was often attached to the school or located nearby. He would be expected to help care for the school building in some cases. If their family didn’t live in the area, single female teachers, sometimes as young as fifteen, boarded with a local family, as social norms required they be supervised. Female teachers had to remain single, and be of excellent moral character.
|Log Cabin style One-Room Schoolhouse|
Some teachers made as little as $4 - $11 per month, but others earned as much as $25 per month. Many schools were only in session 3 - 4 months out of the year since children were needed to help with spring chores and fall harvesting, so the teacher had to find another job or live a full year on only 4 months salary. Although some women made teaching their career, a substantial number of women taught for only a year or two, then married and moved on to new challenges. This pattern, as well as the relatively low pay, led to a very high turnover among teachers.
The picture at the beginning of this article of the white schoolhouse among the trees looks more like a church, but it is actually Rose Hill School, located in Oklahoma. They hold classes for visiting school children to give them a taste of life back in the 1800s. I hope to visit there one day. So, is there a one-room schoolhouse located near where you live? Did you or a relative of yours attend one?
Whispers on the Prairie, book 1 in the Pioneer Promises series, is a Romantic Time Recommended Read!
When Sarah Marshall’s wagon breaks down near a stage stop on the Santa Fe Trail, marriage proposals fly in faster than the incessant wind, but only one man interests Sarah—and he’s not proposing.
Ethan Harper’s well-ordered life is thrown into turmoil when an uppity city gal is stranded at his family’s stage stop. Now his two brothers and every unmarried male in the county are wooing Miss Priss. When one brother proposes, Ethan is in turmoil. Is it because she’s the wrong woman for his brother —or the right one for Ethan?
Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 26 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and the 3rd & 6th books in the Texas Trails series. Her novel, Long Trail Home, won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. Coming July 1st: Whispers on the Prairie, the first book in an exciting new series set in 1870s Kansas. To learn more about Vickie, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com